BOOK CLUB

THIS WEEK’S READS PON­DER THE FU­TURE OF AR­TI­FI­CIAL IN­TEL­LI­GENCE BY REWRIT­ING HIS­TORY AND EN­COUR­AGE THE NEXT GEN­ER­A­TION TO SAVE OUR AN­I­MALS

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | RELAX -

MA­CHINES LIKE ME Ian Mcewan JONATHAN CAPE, $32.99

Bri­tish au­thor Ian Mcewan’s new book is set against a some­what dis­ori­ent­ing re­vi­sion of his coun­try’s his­tory. It is 1982 and in a highly com­puter-savvy 20th cen­tury Mar­garet Thatcher has gone to war over the Falk­lands and lost; thou­sands have been killed and she has re­signed, mak­ing way for Tony Benn who will promptly take Bri­tain out of the Com­mon Mar­ket; when he is killed in his Brighton ho­tel by an IRA bomb, how­ever, Den­nis Healey will re­verse his de­ci­sion and take the coun­try back in again. Alan Tur­ing is alive in his 70s, forg­ing ahead with a range of ad­vances on the ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence front. Lazy, self-cen­tred Char­lie Friend spends his legacy on one of the first 25 ar­ti­fi­cial hu­mans; Tur­ing has bought an­other. Miss­ing out on one of the 13 Eves, Char­lie has to be con­tent with an Adam who looks “like a docker from the Bospho­rus”, but shows a re­mark­ably hu­man ten­dency to in­de­pen­dent thought. Mcewan asks some fun­da­men­tal ques­tions not so much about ro­bots as about our­selves: What is it that makes us hu­man?

KATHARINE ENG­LAND

CA­VAN STA­TION Ni­cola Crich­ton-brown HARPERCOLL­INS, $50

This lav­ishly il­lus­trated book is a his­tory of Ca­van Sta­tion near Yass, New South Wales. Af­ter Euro­pean set­tle­ment, the unique land­scape of the area was sighted by ex­plor­ers Hume and Hovel on their 1824 ex­pe­di­tion from Syd­ney to Port Phillip Bay in search of graz­ing land. At the time, Australia was be­ing trans­formed from a dump­ing ground for con­victs to a breed­ing ground for the world’s finest wool. In 1834, the “Ca­van run” was bought by Wil­liam Ri­ley, son of Alexander Ri­ley, who had done much to pro­mote the saxon merino as the ideal breed for Aus­tralian con­di­tions. The younger Ri­ley set about com­mer­cial­is­ing wool pro­duc­tion in the area. Other own­ers fol­lowed and through the dev­as­ta­tion and preser­va­tion of the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, boom times and de­pres­sion, the story of Ca­van Sta­tion be­came, in a wider sense, the story of the Aus­tralian wool in­dus­try.

JEFF MAY­NARD

THE PA­RADE Dave Eg­gers HAMISH HAMIL­TON, $35

Pro­lific and pub­lic-spir­ited Dave Eg­gers’s eighth novel is more like a rather for­mal, read-at-asit­ting novella de­scrib­ing the mak­ing of a road con­nect­ing the two halves of a re­cently wartorn coun­try. For se­cu­rity rea­sons the foreign con­trac­tors are num­bered rather than named: dour, work-ob­sessed Four con­trols the RS-80, the mag­nif­i­cent mod­ern road-mak­ing ma­chine; so­cia­ble Nine rides the quad bike clear­ing ob­struc­tions and lo­cals out of the ma­chine’s way. When Nine’s care­less gre­gar­i­ous­ness causes him to sicken, help comes in the per­sons of an en­ter­pris­ing pair of lo­cals. Un­der their gen­er­ous in­flu­ence, Four un­bends a frac­tion while Nine takes on some of Four’s sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity. In spite of Nine’s dere­lic­tion the road is fin­ished in time for the planned uni­fy­ing pa­rade from the ru­ral south to the cap­i­tal in the north. Four ad­mires his hand­i­work from the plane bear­ing him home — and hence is wit­ness as we are to what read­ers must de­cide for them­selves to see as ran­dom tragedy or the rank­est cyn­i­cism.

KATHARINE ENG­LAND

BUCK­LEY’S UN­EX­PECTED AD­VEN­TURE Dion Sum­mer­greene SELF-PUB­LISHED, $9.99

The heart­felt de­but from Gold Coast art di­rec­tor and il­lus­tra­tor Dion Sum­mer­greene spot­lights an­i­mal con­ser­va­tion for the next gen­er­a­tion. In this mid­dle-grade fic­tion novel, kids are taken on an in­ter­na­tional jour­ney through the eyes of man’s best friend, al­low­ing them to step into the world of a Queens­land de­tec­tor dog pro­tect­ing Australia’s bor­ders and be­yond. Buck­ley is obe­di­ent, loyal and highly ef­fi­cient at sniff­ing out pro­hib­ited goods. One day he is con­fronted by a heart­break­ing find: a ship­ment of il­le­gally smug­gled an­i­mals. De­ter­mined to put a stop to more an­i­mals suf­fer­ing at the hands of greedy crim­i­nals, he teams up with his best friend, a charis­matic Cal­i­for­nian mouse named Bo, and sur­vivor, Ciara the chameleon, and heads over­seas in search of the mas­ter­mind be­hind the an­i­mal smug­gling syn­di­cate. With cheeky, vividly drawn char­ac­ters and an en­gag­ing flow, this tale’s heart is al­ways in the right place.

CHANTAY LO­GAN

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